JPH car parking profits highlighted

A PROFIT of nearly £260,000 was made from car parking charges at the James Paget Hospital over a period of just two years, a Beccles town councillor revealed this week.

A PROFIT of nearly £260,000 was made from car parking charges at the James Paget Hospital over a period of just two years, a Beccles town councillor revealed this week.

The figures were unearthed by last year's mayor Jeff Harris, who invoked the Freedom of Information in order to examine the profits made from the hospital car park from 2005 to 2006 and 2006 to 2007.

He found that from 2005 to 2006 the Gorleston hospital made a surplus of £159,918 in car parking charges and made a surplus of £99,542 from 2006 to 2007.

And whilst the James Paget argues that the money is used for patient facilities and healthcare provision, Mr Harris sees these figures as an example of “double taxation.”

Mr Harris, who was acting independently from Beccles Town Council, agreed to investigate the car parking charges at the hospital in the autumn of last year after Beccles residents complained they were being over-charged.

Whilst the first 30 minutes parking is free, it costs £2.50 to stay for up to two hours, £3 for two to three hours, and £4 for three to four hours. Over four hours and up to 24 hours costs £6.

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Mr Harris said: “I can see that paying for car parking is a reasonable request but I think that there really should be no profit. This excess of nearly £260,000 in two years is another example of double taxation. “You've already paid you're taxes but because you have to park there you are contributing more to the NHS. I think it's reasonable that they don't make a profit and they don't make a loss.”

He continued: “They indicated to me that it was invested in patient care and I support all of these things and I am indeed very pleased to receive treatment at the James Paget over a fairly regular basis. But it doesn't explain why they should make such a significant profit at the cost of the patient. A lot of people who go there are older people.”

However Julie Cave, director of finance and performance at the James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said that the money was essential for providing and maintaining facilities for the 300,000 patients that the Trust treats.

She said: “Facilities for these patients, including car parking, need to be provided. The income from car parking charges is invested in a range of car parking improvements for our patients, visitors and our staff. These include security, maintenance and increasing the number of spaces available on the hospital site. Any surplus made is put back into healthcare provision enabling us to deliver quality care to our patients. Without this income cuts would have to be made in this healthcare provision.

“Our car parking charges are reviewed annually like most other hospitals. Our charges are still comparable with other hospital sites in the region. We have a number of measures in place to help frequent visitors including a discounted tariff for families of long stay and critically ill patients.”

These measures include a discounted tariff of four visits for £2.50 for immediate family visiting long stay patients or critically ill patients, and free passes if a relative has been in or is expected to be in hospital for more than 12 weeks.